In all of South America, few countries bring as much to the table as Peru. The country on the eastern side of the continent has all the attractions you could possibly hope for in a vacation. Gorgeous beaches, towering mountains, expansive rainforests, the remains of ancient civilizations, and a universally friendly and welcoming people are just the tip of the iceberg. Peru can make for an incredible vacation that you’ll cherish for the rest of your life. And since the currency exchange is 3 Peruvian Soles to 1 US dollar, Peru can make for an affordable excursion, too. There really is no reason not to begin planning your Peruvian vacation immediately. Let us help you narrow down the nation’s plentiful options; here are some of the most rewarding things to do in Peru.
1. Prep for the Altitude
One thing to be aware of when you travel to Peru is the country’s elevation. The capital city of Lima sits at a mile above sea level, the city of Cusco is two miles above sea level, and Machu Picchu is a mile and a half above sea level. In other words, expect to experience the normal symptoms of altitude sickness for at least two days: light-headedness, nausea, and fatigue. You can’t really avoid them, but you can limit them by avoiding alcohol, drinking plenty of water, and getting some sleep. The first day you’re there, it might be a good idea to plan for sleeping in and strolling leisurely through town.
2. Purchase Some Pink Peruvian Salt
Deep within the Andes Mountains, villagers uphold the ancient tradition of mining one-of-a-kind pink Peruvian salt. The trip out is simply gorgeous, the terraced farms of the village are beautiful, and the salt itself — a great souvenir if ever there was one — is extremely cheap.
3. Spend a Few Days Roughing It in the Amazon Basin
Housed within Peru’s thousand-square-mile Tambopata National Reserve are rustic little eco-lodges that can offer a basecamp for a few days while you explore the verdant rainforests of Peru. These gorgeous stretches of land have nurtured countless species of birds, reptiles, and aquatic life. Even a brief visit to the rainforest of Peru is worth the effort.
4. Eat Everything
For fans of fusion cuisine, you can’t do any better than Peru. For more than five hundred years, the natives have happily incorporated myriad international cuisine into their time-tested recipes. The result is an incredibly diverse national cuisine that incorporates Chinese and European influences into some really special dishes. Try the ceviche and the lomo saltado. You won’t regret it.
5. Trek to the Rainbow Mountains
Thanks to their unique geological position, the peaks of the Ausangate mountain range in the Peruvian Andes are composed of several different types of sediment that paint the range a gorgeous array of colors. The most famous of these is the remote Rainbow Mountain. It takes six days of hiking to reach the summit, but the trail is filled with wonderful diversions that provide a unique Peruvian experience. If you’re a fan of hiking, this is a can’t-miss opportunity.
6. Absolutely Visit Machu Picchu
Far and away the most popular destination in all of Peru is the lost city of the Incas, Machu Picchu. You’ll likely have to get going in the pre-dawn hours to make the most of the ancient city, but by every account, it’s worth it. The breathtaking views are matched only by the awe-inspiring ingenuity of this incredible ancient people. Learn, hike, explore, and find untold inspiration at Machu Picchu.
7. Get Some Shopping Done at Cusco’s Handicraft Market
The textiles of the Peruvian people are not only exquisitely woven, they’re a cultural tradition. Some of the best handmade products of the Peruvian people are on display at Cusco’s Handicraft Market. You can haggle your way through the series of stalls and pick up everything from tablecloths to leg warmers, each one lovingly crafted by a local artisan.
8. Visit Keshwa Chaca, the Last Incan Rope Bridge
Suspended 60 feet above a rushing river sits Keshwa Chaca, a bridge made from woven grass. Once just a single link in a network of similar bridges, Keshwa Chaca has become the last remaining example of these once-sacred structures. A visit to the picturesque bridge will not only impress upon you the crafting skill of the Incas, it will also provide plenty of stunning pictures.
9. Explore the Origins of the Nazca Lines
One of planet Earth’s most pervasive mysteries are the Peruvian Nazca Lines, massive drawings that were theorized and created by a people who would never actually have a chance to see them in full. See, the Nazca Lines are only truly visible from a few hundred feet above the ground, a height impossible to achieve for the ancient Nazca people who constructed them. Even if you don’t buy the whole ancient alien theory surrounding their origins, the Nazca Lines are an amazing destination if only to appreciate the Nazca people’s incredible grasp of advanced mathematics.
10. Walk Through a Stone Forest at Huayllay National Sanctuary
Over the course of the last 75 million years or so, the rock formations at the Huayllay Stone Forest have traveled from the bottom of the sea floor to their current elevation hundreds of feet above sea level. Along the way, everything from oceans to glaciers have made their mark on the stone forest, rendering it an incredibly remarkable place to visit.
11. Get a Dose of Culture at Lima’s Larco Museum
If you want to soak up Peruvian culture as much as you can, then be sure to visit the gorgeously-curated Larco Museum. Located in Peru’s capital city, the Larco Museum showcases generations of ceremonial masks and archeological relics. For anyone interested, there’s also a huge collection of X-rated pottery.